Monday, July 30, 2012

Using Your Credit Card Information To Validate Your Identity For Your Free Account

I really dislike that when I sign up for a free service they ask for my credit card information under the guise of  validating my identity.  I always assume they are going to pull an AOL on me and give me the first month free and then automatically start charging me the next month.

This time I was told that once a year you can get your credit report for free.  I went and searched the internet to find where you do that.  I found several sites, which should've tipped me off that they were going to use this to rope me into a service.  I went to one and they asked all sorts of personal information, but i was asking for a credit report, so I allowed it, even though it made me uneasy.

One of the pieces of information they asked for was a credit card, which they said was used to validate my identity.  That sounded reasonable, even though I hated it.

I entered the credit card information and went to their site to get the report.  It did indeed give me the report from all three credit bureaus.  I then noticed things on the site that said "monitoring" like they were monitoring my credit.  They also had stuff about account information.  I was not intending to create an account with a business.  I just wanted my once a year credit history.

I called their customer service number to cancel whatever account they had created and make sure they never charge my credit card for anything.  The customer service representative confirmed that in one week they were going to begin charging my credit card.  I never saw anything about that in the sign up process.  Everything said give us this piece of information or that piece of information in order to find me and get the report.  Nothing I saw said that I was signing up for their service.  Everything was under the cover of getting the report for free.

This is a very dishonest practice and wreaks of bait and switch, but I thought was against the law.

The company that did it to me this time was call ScoreSense.  Their web site is

While their customer service person answered the phone quickly and was very helpful, I should not have had to call them.  If they are offering a free report I don't mind if they then give me an advertisement for their service, but don't hijack my credit card and lock me into a service that I have to call to cancel.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Key Bank - Upsell

It seems like the only business Key Bank is in is the up sell business.  For a while everytime I would go in there to cash a check and get in and get out, the teller would interview about what type of business I had.  At first I thought it was just to be friendly and make conversation while she processed the checks, but then it always started going down the path of some service I might be interested in.

I wouldn't go into the bank at all if they allowed me to take a picture of the check and deposit it from home, no matter if the branch is open or not.

I would've joined a credit union had it not been because part of my business is in another state and it was easier to have branches in both places for me and my business associates to be able to get to the account.

So going into the process I already do not want to be with Key Bank, then when they try to sell me stuff every time I am forced to go in it makes me dislike banks more.

Today I was forced to go in to deposit checks again.  I had heard previously of financial institutions allowing people to take pictures of checks and deposit them.  I asked the teller as I do every so many months.  She said she though they had some service like that, but I might need to buy one of their check machines.  She then said I needed to go talk to their business person at one of the desks.  On my way to leave her to go to the desk the teller tells me to be sure to ask about some rewards program.

I get to the desk and I stay standing because I just want a yes or no and perhaps some brief instructions on how to use the service or a time frame on when they will offer it.  The business lady ushers me to a chair.  Then she describes, just like the teller, how she doesn't know.  She thinks they have that service, but I would have to buy the machine.  She makes a few calls and finds out that they have the service, if we have a machine, but later this year I might be able to scan from an IPhone app.  She seemed to think I couldn't just scan or take a picture of the check.  She gave me some spiel about security issues.  Clearly a web site could validate the check from a photo as easy, if not easier than an app could from a camera on an IPhone.

At various stages of this process of trying to find out about their service she probes me for questions about my business.  She offer me night deposit or ATM deposits, which I don't trust.  I want to see immediately that it has been processed to my account and not lost.

She ended up having nothing to make my check needs easier, so I went to leave.  She felt compelled to make me take her card.  I had no business I needed to follow up with her for, so she wasted the card, which I threw away when I got home.  She also asked if she could call in a few weeks to follow up with me.  The service I am interested is not available, if at all, until September or October, so why do I need a follow up call, other than for her to try to sell me something.  I gently told her I would check back the next time I had to bring a check it.  I was kind to her, but I was very irritated at all of the wasted time and the attempt to get me to waste more time.  I was also irritated at the constant fishing for information about me and my business, which was not necessary in order to answer my question.

She asked my name.  I gave her my first name.  She then pressed me for my last name.

My whole intent is to cash a check more quickly.  What I got was an extended visit to the bank with a salesperson.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Video Card Kills Cannon Canoscan Toolbox 5

I'm not sure who deserves recognition on this one, the wonky video card; its creator or manufacturer, or Cannon for its software or scanner.

I recently installed a second video card into my computer. It was acting weird and at times it was crashing. When it was working it felt like the machine was running slower. I lived with it and got it somewhat stable, but still things felt slow. I was willing to live with that for a while in order to have a dual monitor setup until I could do something else.

I have been scanning in a bunch of documents and the pile was almost gone. I loaded up the Canonscan Toolbar version 5 and chose PDF as I have been doing for hundreds of documents. The PDF scan box came up and I clicked scan. It gave me this error box that stated:

Unable to open TWAIN source
Please check connection
Then re-start Toolbox

I tried unplugging the power and plugging the scanner back in. I tried unplugging the USB cable from the scanner and plugging it back in. I tried rebooting. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the Canoscan Toolbox. I tried hacking registry keys. I had even at one point tried to fix I am going to explain below and that didn't work either at that time. I tried apply all of the updates that seemed reasonable from Windows Update. I tried scanning with Windows Live Photo Galery and that scanned fine. I removed the offending video card. I loaded a virtual machine with VMWare Player and it scanned fine with the Canoscan Toolbox software installed in it. The only time it didn't work was when the host's Windows could not even install the driver, but I got around that somehow.

I ended up finding that some had found it helpful to change the windows path variable. I have been running Canoscan Toolbox with this Cannon 4400F scanner for years and never had to hack the path variable, but I tried it anyway. As I said I did it twice during the process and it failed to be of help the first time. After installing and unstalling it got removed from the path again.

The path that needed to be added to the Windows path variable was C:\Windows\twain_32\CNQ4803. I have heard that the last folder in this path is specific to each scanner. This one is for a Cannon 4400F.

After that it began working again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

MagicJack Free, But Not Unlimited

I have used MagicJack for years with occasional big problems here and there, but when it works it is great and generally works for months without issue.

Recently I had a friend ask me if I wanted their MagicJack, since their service had been cut off.  They said that they had gone over a cap that MagicJack has on number of phone numbers you can call in a day.  You are limited to fifty calls per day.

I noticed a thread online that stated that they were a low usage user.  Then one day they had a large call volume day, which went over the fifty call limit and they were immediately cut off.  They argued that since their usage was never even close to fifty phone numbers called on any other day, to be cut off for one large day was unfair.  They also argued that the wording of the Terms of Service indicated 50 calls per day everyday.

There has also been some discussion of long calls being disconnected.  MagicJack customer service seems to be blaming it on an over heated USB device or slow internet connection, in sprite of people claiming that it drops at exactly two hours.

Others have noted that MagicJack can cut off your service if you make an excessive number of calls.  The terms of service are unclear.  It says something about 20-30 times the average use.  They don't define average use, so it is hard to determine how this limit would impact you.

I personally think that 20-30 times average use is fine, but would like a quantification of what that is.  I think that the two hour call limit is stupid, but likely something most folks can live with.  If you happen to be on the phone with grandma for two hours and get cut off, call her back.

The number that bugs me is the 50 phone numbers called per day limit.  This seems like a bad restriction.  While I think that most users won't hit that limit I think that number should be a lot higher, if there has to be a number at all.

It was my understanding when I got the device years ago that MagicJack made its money by being a backbone provider and routing calls in a way that made them money.  It appears that on outbound calls they don't make money on them.  Perhaps this is similar to when I use Google Chat to send SMS messages I can only send 50 messages.  When I send a message it decrements my available messages to send.  When I receive a message my available messages to send goes up by 5, capping out at 50.  Perhaps Google also makes money on received messages, but has to potentially pay for sent messages.

Just be aware that MagicJack allows you to make free calls (after the yearly fee is paid), but not unlimited calls.

If you have a business with high call volume, you might want to get multiple MagicJacks to mitigate the limit.  You will probably still be much cheaper than a monthly phone bill from the phone company.  You could set up a Google Voice number that rings all of the MagicJack phone numbers and answer which ever one you want, but manage you usage on each one for outbound calls.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dirty Trick Google Plus Upset Little Children

This weekend a friend of my ten year old son invited him to Google Plus.  I figured there was the usual age limitation of 13 years old, but the invite didn't say, so I figured I would let him give it a shot.  It asked for his name and birth date.  We entered the information trying to be honest.  Once we clicked the button to sign up the system gave him an error message stating that he was not old enough and it said that it had disabled all of his Google services, including his email that he has been using for years.

When I signed up for the account years ago there was nothing that said there was an age limit, so to disable his email because he tried to sign up for another service is garbage.  To make it worse, there was no way for him to get his emails and contacts out of it.

As has been stated by other people online who had the same thing happen to their children, he had conversations from friends and relatives.  He had also just sent a message to a friend who now will reply and not know what happened.

Technically it was my account that I gave to him to use.  I have heard that schools can approve accounts for kids with a signed paper from their parents.  Why as a parent can I not decide if I want my kid to have the service, even without a school acting as an intermediary?

There was an option for him to use a credit card to verify his age if he was old enough, but it was cost him 30 cents.  I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that it is the amount the the credit card company is charging for them to do a small transaction.  I assume they aren't using this as a profit mechanism.

I also realize that they are trying to come in compliance with some stupid government regulation to "protect" children, but what a rotten way to implement it.  This doesn't protect kids, it just makes them sad.

My son had been doing just fine with his email account for a long time without the government's "protection".

Monday, April 23, 2012

Companies That Enclose Advertisements Important Official Looking Envelops

I receive an envelop in the mail recently which said "United States Mail Code RB7349- Official Records".  Others things on the envelop were a control code and the words "Open Immediately: Response Required".

This gave me the impression that this was something more than it was.  I know that was the point of the envelop, but it seems shady and dishonest to me.  When I opened the envelop I found a full page color advertisement like one would find in the stack of newspapers.  The advertisement was for a furniture store that was supposedly going out of business.  Had I figured out that the envelop was junk mail I would've thrown it away and not opened it.  Again, I know that was the point of the envelop, but because they tricked me to open it just made me mad and it ensured that I would not be going to the sale.

If indeed the place is going out of business it is likely they don't care what people think of their methods.  Isn't there some laws about dishonest advertising?  If so, does this not fall into that category?

I have included the images of the envelop and the advertisement I found inside.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


A few months ago, before all the gyrations of Netflix spinning off their ship to your home DVD business into Quickster, I was seriously considering signing up for Netflix.

Previously I had skipped it because my family doesn't rent more than one or two movie per month, so $2 per month at Redbox was way less than Netflix.

I started thinking about movies that are not new releases that we might watch if they were at Redbox. That started to sound a little closer, but still would only be another movie or two per month, which I could probably just get from Amazon or Walmart steaming as needed and still be money ahead of Netflix.

As time went on I started thinking about old TV shows that I have tried to share with my kids that they really liked.  We have had trouble finding some of the seasons.  If Netflix had TV shows I thought it might be worth it.

My boss had a Netflix subscription, so I had him do three searches for me.  I picked Happy Days season 3, the movie Twister, and I can not remember the third thing.

They had Happy Days season 3, but only on DVDs that I would have to wait on to be shipped to me.  Maybe that wouldn't be a big deal to wait for the disks, since I don't have to send them back until I am done with them, but I also can't get anything else until I do and then I have to wait for the next thing.  Then I have to keep track of the disks and make sure they do get sent back before my kids lose them.

They had Twister, but only on DVD.  When my wife and I feel we are in the mood for and have time for a movie we want it that night.  Waiting to have a disk shipped to us is unacceptable.

The third one they did not have at all.  I don't remember what it was, but I seem to recall that it wasn't any more obscure than Twister and Happy Days.

Netflix had a customer ready to buy that day.  Since they had none of the things I was looking for via streaming I walked away and fell back to my previous position of disinterest in Netflix for my family.

I have heard that their pricing for streaming is lower now that they have spun off the DVD business, but if they don't have the things I want, then it is pointless even if it was the same as I would pay each month at Redbox.

J C Penney (JCP) New Fair Practices

Let me get this out of the way before I get to the main topic of this post.  It appears that J C Penney is beginning to try to get themselves to be know as JCP.  After all acronyms are what all the cool kids are doing, right?  I would be interested to know how much traction The International House of Pancakes gain by changing everything to IHOP.  Ever since I was a little kid I knew The International House of Pancakes and loved them. Maybe they didn't want to be pigeon holed to pancakes.

Now for the core of my issues with J C Penney, this new string of ads about being "fair and square".

What does this say about the company previous to now if before their practices were unfair and ridiculous?  Can we actually trust them that they have turned over a new leaf or is this just the latest in their scams on consumers?

Will everything be priced at an even dollar or is it just another game like Walmart does where they price things not as something.99, which everyone recognizes as a scam, but something.87 or some other random number?  Thus giving the illusion that they squeezed this price down to the last possible penny that they could.  From J C Penney's web site it appears as though they are going with even dollar amount prices.  I think that is easier for signage and even advertising in other places.  It is also clearer to the customer about what they are paying, so if that is the practice they are moving to, I give them a point for that.